Porto Augusta

Salvaged boat wreckage in the Mediterranean "fundamental for both living and dead"

1 July Jul 2016 1459 01 July 2016
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The boat that carried over 700 migrants to their deaths in one of the greatest refugee tragedies in the Mediterranean is now being salvaged, and the bodies of those who lost their lives are finally being laid to rest.

The past few days at the Port of Augusta in Sicily have seen the salvaging of one of the biggest boat wrecks in the Mediterranean to date.

On 18th April 2015, the boat headed from Libya to Italy saw the worst disaster involving migrants smuggled from Europe to date. Over 700 people lost their lives that day, and until a few days ago, the bodies from the wreckage had still not been salvaged.

The estimated numbers of bodies still to be salvaged and buried is between 250-300.

"A recovery of a vessel of this size and at this depth of about 400 meters has never been done before: it was a complex operation," stated Admiral of the Navy, Peter Covino during a press conference at the Nato dock of Melilli in the Port of Augusta, Sicily.

"It is a difficult job, especially for the numbers concerned. This operation is important for the dead, but it is absolutely fundamental for those left alive, to give them back peace of mind: for those that do not know if their relative or child is alive or dead. Also for administrative and legal purposes it is crucial. For example, this will allow orphans that currently cannot move to obtain the death certificates of their parents," said coroner Cristina Cattaneo, Director of the Coronary Institute of Milan.

The funding for the salvaging operation was of 9.5 million euros from the Italian government. Writing on his Facebook page, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said: "In April 2015, the smugglers led 700 people to their death, crammed and locked in the hold of a tiny boat. Following this event, Italy then asked for the extraordinary meeting of the European Council. From that moment, we started to change the continental policy on migrants, one step at a time. That ship contains stories, faces, people: not just a number of dead bodies."

"I have instructed the Navy to retrieve the wreckage in order to give a burial to our brothers and sisters who otherwise would have remained forever beneath the sea. I did it because we Italians know the value of the word 'civilization'. We have been taught from the earliest days of school that respect for burial is one of the great values ​​of our culture. Giving a tomb in each of them means returning them the right to memory. It means to warn Europe about what are the values that really matter. We continue every day to try to save lives, even today," emphasised the Italian premier.

To see a video of the wreckage being salvaged, click here

Photo credits: Getty Images/Giusi Cosentino

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